Foodstagramming – it’s the ‘done thing’ by many customers in restaurants. But how often do you see businesses encouraging customers to share their experience on Instagram? I’ve never seen it first-hand, which made me ask the question – are food businesses missing a trick here?

Foodstagram - Restaurants are missing a huge opportunity

It’s as if there are two pre-meal ritual options that some people like to complete before tucking into their dinner – praying or photographing their food.

Instagramming your meal has become the norm. Although many will say it’s unsociable and rude to be on your phone in a restaurant (this is a whole different debate), it’s very common and people love to do it. From a marketing perspective, it’s a prospect that needs to be explored.

As an Instagram user, I’m all for instagramming food – not personally, but I enjoy ogling over the meals people post. I specifically enjoy looking at macaroni cheese. And juicy steaks. And pizza. And cakes. Basically, any food that looks delicious (and is very unhealthy) on Instagram, I want it.

I’m not the only food lover using Instagram. Everyone enjoys uploading or dribbling over other people’s food. In fact, there’s over 285 million posts (rising daily) with the hashtag ‘food’. Another food related hashtag is ‘foodporn’, which has over 166 million posts. ‘Instafood’ has 122 million.

Food is immense on Instagram, but who are the individuals posting these scrumptious looking photos and why?

The common foodstagrammers

You have those who take a photo of a meal because it looks delicious and those who regularly snap images of their food. But why? Who are these people?

  • Chefs and foodies who focus heavily on foodstagramming for inspiration.
  • Individuals who post food every now and again when they’ve got something delicious-looking in front of them.
  • Fitness fanatics whose Instagram is a food diary or used to inspire their followers.

What does this have to do with restaurants?

Everything. Food is vast on Instagram, in fact, it dictates my Instagram feed most of the time – not that I’m complaining!

If you look up any notable restaurant chain or coffee house on Instagram, you can expect to see on-brand, high spec images of their food, drink and staff. Or at least there should be.

They say that “people eat with their eyes first,” if that’s the case then that means as a restaurant or food business, your social profiles should be very visual, right?

That’s not to say that you need to plaster your Insta profile with food (although that would be a dream to many), you can show a great deal more, including the environment and atmosphere your potential customers can expect to experience should they come to visit you.

Here are some on-brand Instagram grids of notable food & drink businesses:

Costa grid

Costa’s grid.

Hummingbird grid

Hummingbird’s grid.

Turtle Bay grid

Turtle Bay’s grid.

How are businesses missing this #foodstagram hype?

Although many notable food & drink chains have a very appealing Instagram page, they’re missing an even bigger trick – they’re not utilising their customers’ Instagram following.

From my research, I found a couple of restaurants encouraging customers to hashtag. The two I spotted were…

#zizzigoodtimes - Zizzi Instagram
#giraffesnaps - Giraffe Instagram

They were the only two local restaurants in Guildford who did encourage it that I could find.

Here’s a side note: I got in touch with a couple of restaurants in Guildford to get their view on Instagramming food and whether they might consider encouraging their customers to post on Insta about them. They didn’t take the time to reply. I hope they make enough time to consider their social and Instagram strategy!

Businesses are missing the word of mouth equivalent on Instagram

Although we have the internet, word of mouth is still one of the best ways to drum up new business. Encouraging your customers to Instagram about their experience at your restaurant could be a great way to ‘spread the word’.

If someone posts a photo with a little something about the experience, their followers will see it, meaning free advertisement for you.

Some of the pros to a business having a foodstagram:

  • Allows you to engage with customers – like, comment, share their posts. Repost their photos too and give them a shout out.
  • An active account will encourage customers to post about you too with their own posts and pics.
  • Increase in activity from you and your customers will bring more eyes to your page.
  • Potential to increase your local online presence if customers tag the location of the restaurant.
  • Chance to show off sneaky behind the scene shots in the kitchen – customers love this kind of thing!

Check out Zizzi’s Instagram (@wearezizzi). They have a nice looking grid that keeps in line with their brand. They also repost some of their customers’ posts too.

Zizzi Instagram grid

An example of Zizzi’s Instagram grid.

Techniques to encourage customers to post a photo

Be as creative as you need to be to get your customers posting about you. A sure-fire way to get people interested and making them aware is by having signage in your restaurant. Think about creating a unique hashtag for customers to use in their post. If your restaurants are national, then why not create individual hash tags for each restaurant?

Some of your customers may not be fussed about Instagramming, so why not offer an incentive:

“One lucky Instagrammer each month using the hashtag ‘#gfordzizzitime’ will win a free cocktail/bottle of Prosecco/starter/main course on their next visit.”

The reward can be anything you like!

Should you do this, it’s vital that you try to respond and interact with customers who take the time to Instagram about you. After all, they may have just earned you another customer or two.

The risk with Instagram marketing

There are always risks – people may take the opportunity to complain about your food, the service or the general experience. Always remain professional, respond calmly and fairly, and most importantly, take their points on board – it may make all the difference to the quality of your service.

Don’t ever be disheartened if there is a negative review, I’m sure they will be outweighed by positive reviews.

A dark horse and potential target audience for you in the foodstagram hype

There’s quite a big following for fitness on Instagram. #fitness (280 million), #fitnessmotivation (45 million), #fitnessinspiration (nearly 3 million), #healthyeating (25 million), the list goes on.

Depending on your target audience, those fitness foodies could be a great opportunity for your business. Many fitness specific accounts have a big following.

You want an example of a fitness enthusiast helping a restaurant?

You may be getting fed up with hearing about the teacher’s pet in this article, but Zizzi partnered up with fitness guru Lucy Mecklenburgh last Christmas to produce the below:

Tonight we’re following in @lucymeck1 footsteps #zizzigoodtimes goodtimes #zizzitakeaway #zizziedits

A post shared by Zizzi Restaurants (@wearezizzi) on


What did this achieve? Well, I remember a situation actually where me and my other half decided to treat ourselves to a meal out. We deliberated for a little while on where to go, until she suggested Zizzi, “Lucy Meck has a guide on what is healthy to eat at Zizzi,” she said. And that was that. We went to Zizzi!

Imagine the opportunity should a fitness guru come into your restaurant and give you promotion on their Instagram. Even if it isn’t a choreographed marketing campaign, it could still provide you with valuable advertisement.

Are businesses missing a trick here? I think so.

Some will retort this point with the fact that it’s rude to be on your phone in company of friends or family in a restaurant. Maybe that’s true, but for restaurant owners, I think the foodstagram effect could be hugely beneficial to their business!

Instagram offers many opportunities for businesses

Instagram is booming. But be warned: if you do create an Instagram profile for your business, it’s vital that you get it right.

Want some help getting started?

We love Instagram here at Equals Creative and we’d love to help you on your journey should you decide to head in that direction!

Drop us an email to hello@equalscreative.com and we can arrange a time to talk about your requirements.